Tips to Encourage New Ideas in Collaborative Sketching

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In my last post I discussed tactics we employ to make the most of collaborative wireframe sketching sessions (give this a shot if you haven’t already – it’s a valuable exercise). I covered time as a constraint but there’s more we can do to generate new ideas while avoiding groupthink. This post makes an excellent case for the importance of a structured, exploratory approach to wireframe design and addresses the problem of conformity in interface structure and design.

Understanding Divergent Thinking

As per Wikipedia, divergent thinking is a thought process or method used to generate creative ideas by exploring many possible solutions. Working in a larger group expands the number of possible solutions, or at least it seems like it would. One risk associated with collaboration in this context is the potential for ideas to converge as they’re revealed. Convergence is good, but without structure it can happen too soon and leave potential solutions unexplored.

Encouraging Divergent Thinking

The act of encouraging new ideas is simple: just ask. Providing the following instructions and segmenting the sketching session builds the structure necessary for idea generation:

  • Be conservative. Give instructions like ‘If you could only change three things from the current state, what would you change?’
  • Be minimalist. Ask participants to sketch the absolute least they think could be on the screen or state.
  • Be maximalist. Ask participants to fit everything they can in the screen or state they’re sketching.
  • Be radical. Lead with a question like ‘If you had a blank slate and no constraints, what would you do that looks like nothing else?’
  • Be pragmatic. Ask participants to combine what they think are their best ideas to create an optimal and achievable experience.

The Value of Constraints

Intuitively these constraints might seem to make sketching more difficult, but nothing’s more difficult than a blank page. Constraints give the mind something to work with and are an important, often-overlooked part of design. The instructions above take the responsibility of some early arbitrary decisions off participants and places them on the constraints.

Try adding this structure to your next sketching activity and note the difference it makes in the number of possible solutions generated. Contact us if you have questions or need assistance in running a wireframe sketching exercise.




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